Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jumbled thoughts on eBook annotations

This at-first unremarkable-seeming Guardian article about the rise of eBook annotations and note-taking immediately reminded me of a conversation I had a couple weeks ago. While speaking with two prolific margin-scribblers, I admitted my own inability to write within the margins of a book. The topic wound its way to the point at which I remarked that I found writing in the margins of an eBook entirely problem-free (perhaps because of how easy it is to hide the notes...?) and the realization that in this regard, for myself, eBooks surpassed print books.

Reading the Guardian's short blurb on the matter, however, I'm struck more by the last paragraph than any of their comments on the nature of eBook annotations:
In response, several publishers have sought to restrict the way their books can be annotated. The Kindle, for example, allows the publisher to limit how much of a book can be shared online, to allay fears of piracy. While it's just about possible to imagine texts being reassembled this way, the more likely result is to frustrate assiduous ebook annotators. Whether the coming years will see a new efflorescence of marginalia – or a readers' revolt over fair use – remains to be seen.
I'm not sure what to make of that. As I do not own a Kindle, I'm not always up-to-speed on the latest shenanigans, however I find it hard to believe that publishers are honestly concerned about how much a reader can annotate a book they paid for. The chutzpah would be astounding. While the background concern is semi-legitimate, if publishers have indeed taken these steps (and I'm not entirely sure that this is a "thing", as no source is mentioned in the article and I don't recall coming across this tidbit anywhere else...) then our situation is worse than I thought... and I've been pretty pessimistic until now.


  1. Limiting how much a reader can annotate an ebook seems like madness to me. I can't believe they are even considering this. Thanks for drawing this weird situation to my attention.

  2. I think the idea of limiting the annotations is to keep people from highlighting the entire book and then having that book in its entirety be shareable. Because I can see other people's annotations for a book, they don't want someone to share the whole book that way.

    And from I took from the article, it's not that they're limiting people from annotating so much as they're limiting what annotations can be shared online.

  3. I have a Kindle and there is no limit to the amount of annotating one can do on it. Amazon makes available online frequently highlighted passages and readers can share their annotations with one another. The limit comes not in the amount a reader can annotate, but in how much of what is annotated can be viewed online. The Guardian article could do with a bit more precision!

    1. Like I said, it seemed a bit unlikely and strange... Good to know that there aren't actually limitations on the annotations!


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